I suppose that when you’re in your mid-40’s it isn’t unusual to find yourself melancholy and longing for things in the past. It always seemed to me that by this age things should be set in a groove, financial security wouldn’t be a worry and leisure time would be plentiful.
It turns out that all of that is complete bullshit.
At times, I believe that I am further from knowing my self than I have ever been (though 10 years ago I felt completely the opposite) and that life is more chaotic and unsure than it has ever been (including the college years and post-graduation). My second marriage and raising my step-son over the past several years have challenged me and changed me in ways that I never saw coming — mostly for the better.
Growing up as, more or less, an only child, I never really had to learn some of the skills that are very useful in a marriage – especially one in which I am also a step-dad. I grew up as a very independent person who wasn’t faced with having to share possessions, time and feelings to the same level that someone from a larger family might have to. Most of the time, sharing was sort of optional. That is to say, that the option of solitude was always there … and it was comfortable.
Naturally, that all changes in a family situation. I’ve had to learn that my time is not always mine. Other people’s feelings are often more important than my own and I’m not always allowed to keep my feelings to myself. Those are pretty big things. It’s been difficult at times. These things have also been the subjects of some epic fights.
Possessions and money … the material things … have also been points of contention. I was quite accustomed to controlling my own resources and enjoying the fruits of my labor at my own discretion. Now, as a husband and father, it seems that I rarely take part of what I’ve earned and spend it just on myself. My wife’s career suffered a couple of setbacks over the past couple of years and that has changed the financial landscape in a way I’ve never experienced in my adult life. Our son is now a teenager on the cusp of becoming a licensed driver and that has brought financial considerations as well. Resources must be managed to keep the family in a good place before taking any self indulgences.
Over the years, I’ve learned to be a more sharing and caring person. I still find myself going solo in my head sometimes … old ways may never completely die. But the rewards of learning to be part of a family are substantial.
In my 40’s, I do feel busier and stretched more thinly than I want to be. I want … need … more time to play. Yet it feels like I need to be working longer and harder to make it all work. It’s a classic catch-22 … and I’m pretty sure it’s an illusion. The law of diminishing returns …
I’ve read words from sages proclaiming that water cannot be shared from an empty cup. Play is part of what fills that empty cup and I need to do more of it … both alone and with my family. Play is healthy and it is necessary.